Annapolis, MD -- A new issue brief from Food & Water Watch highlights the dangers of propping up aging nuclear facilities and investing resources into new ones. Despite what the nuclear industry claims, nuclear power is not clean, safe, or renewable. Moreover, nuclear energy cannot act as a silver bullet when it comes to climate crisis solutions, it exacerbates water problems, and it pollutes communities with radioactive waste.
The release comes as Maryland politicians push to subsidize nuclear facilities by passing them off as clean, renewable energy generators. Governor Hogan recently introduced the CARES Act, HB363/SB265, which proposes adding new nuclear reactors to the Clean and Renewable Energy Standard, his proposed updated Renewable Portfolio Standard. The CARES Act would also allow for the energy output from existing nuclear reactors connected to the Maryland grid, including Calvert Cliffs and Peach Bottom, to decrease the goals of the Clean and Renewable Energy Standard.
In addition, Senator Hershey and Delegate Adams have introduced a bill called Clean Energy Attribute Credits and Procurement, HB1349/SB890, which would allow a clean energy attribute credit to be awarded to nuclear reactors. Combined, Calvert Cliffs and Peach bottom generate 60% of energy consumed by Marylanders, and counting generation from these reactors as “renewable” would tank development of real clean and renewable energy.
The report highlights key findings about the faults and misconceptions surrounding nuclear power, including:
- Nuclear power plants take an estimated 10 to 19 years from initial planning to electricity generation, compared to just 2 to 5 years for utility solar and wind, while producing up to 37 times more emissions per kilowatt-hour than wind energy.
- Heavy reliance on water makes nuclear power plants vulnerable to a changing climate where extreme weather events are more prevalent. Droughts, water shortages and increasing water temperatures can reduce electricity generation at facilities or cause temporary shutdowns, making them an unreliable energy source in a warming climate.
- For every megawatt-hour of electricity produced, nuclear plants on average consume roughly 750 gallons of water, whereas solar and wind generation use on average 125 gallons and less than 1 gallon, respectively.
- Nuclear energy is more expensive than clean renewable energy sources. Per kilowatt-hour, new nuclear power plants cost 2.3 to 7.4 times more than onshore wind or utility-scale solar plants, a burden which is transferred on to taxpayers when state governments subsidize nuclear energy.
- The United States spends roughly $500 million a year storing radioactive waste from nuclear power plants; this is expected to increase as the inventory grows.
These findings make it obvious that Maryland should steer clear of subsidizing or incentivizing new or existing nuclear reactors, and instead push for truly clean, renewable energy.